Monday, October 14, 2013

Steins; Gate (Part 2)


A self-proclaimed mad scientist. A microwave that seemingly just turns bananas into green, gelatinous blobs. A murder. These are the main factors setting the scene for the events of Steins;Gate, an anime series that manages to take the classic time travel adventure premise and turn it into a high-stakes game of fourth dimensional chess. Rintaro Okabe (voiced by Death Note's Light Yagami; Mamoru Miyano in Japanese and Deadman Wonderland's J. Michael Tatum in English), the aforementioned mad scientist and founder of the Future Gadget Laboratory lives in constant fear of the 'organization', which he maintains is out to get him for his insane brilliance, while everyone who knows him tends to write off his claims as a part of his abundant eccentricity. Events take several bizarre turns following the revelation that the remote controlled microwave he'd been working on is actually a functional time machine, allowing text messages to be sent into the past and alter present reality. What's more, only Okabe himself seems able to notice these changes as everyone else is absorbed into new realities seamlessly. As work on the time machine advances and nears perfection, Okabe's conspiracy theories prove to be more than a little accurate and he's soon battling with the past itself to combat a vast and uncompromising enemy without damaging the lives of those he loves.

The premise of the show is not something entirely unheard of before, with many great time travel adventures in existence. Where this show well and truly shines is in its execution of the premise, with masterful detail being given to the characters, the world and its events and equally, to the premise of time travel itself. Okabe is not capable of physically travelling back in time, only capable of sending information in the form of a text and later, in the form of brainwaves to his past self. This removes a lot of the omnipotence one could imagine accompanying a time machine as well as a lot of Bill and Ted-like plot devices. From the very beginning of the show, it's clear that every moment, every action has been plotted as a part of the overall narrative and while there are definitely times where the effects of time travel can be confusing, (in equal measure to characters and viewers alike), they are never heavy handed and the plot flows quickly and dynamically. The Future Gadget Laboratory's ongoing war against the powers that be is drenched with suspense and drama to the point that the total of twenty four episodes could well leave viewers hungry for more and there's clear potential for rewatching this addictive series again and again.

Character personalities are well established from the beginning, with Okabe serving as the focal point of the narrative while also being one of its most dynamic and eye-drawing characters. Kurisu Makise,( voiced by Strait Jacket's Asami Imai in Japanese and Soul Eater's Trina Nishimura in English), referred to mainly as 'Assistant' or 'Christina' by Okabe is a serious and very scientifically curious scientist who proves to be Okabe's superior in many ways, much to his resentment. Daru "Super Hacker" (voiced by Fate/Stay Night's Tomokazu Seki in Japanese and Tyson Rineheart in English) is the resident computer expert and pervert for the organisation, though proving to be a warm and likeable character despite his obvious shortcomings. Mayuri Shiina (voiced by Kana Hanazawa, the voice of Deadman Wonderland's Shiro in Japanese and Jackie Ross in English) is the de facto mascot for the group, providing much in the way of moral support, despite little to no working scientific knowledge. She proves to be Okabe's emotional little sister and the bond between the two is a pivotal theme throughout.

Visually, the series feels very fresh, with bright colours and settings contrasting with darker, more subtle scenes throughout and sharp detail on characters and environments, giving the series an appropriately modern feeling and shying away from the exaggerated style known to affect anime from time to time.

This series manages to bundle an incredibly elaborate and well constructed plot with several eccentric and enjoyable characters into an anime experience that feels as much like an exercise in logic as it does an entertaining show. The show manages to skim violence, bloodshed and mature levels of grit and suspense without leaning on them any more than the plot dictates. Plot twists and suspense-filled battles of will call to mind certain moments from Death Note and fans of that series may well benefit from checking this one out too.

Steins;Gate Part 2 is available on DVD and Bluray from September 30th

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